December 30, 2015

Running MilSurp Gear

For the long term, you want to have radio gear that's rugged and repairable.  One way is to run Milsurp gear, the older the better.

These are not appliances.  They are more like ham gear from the 1950s and 1960s that required you to know something.

Start here: Index_to_Surplus

This is a bibliography of magazine articles from 1945-1961 dealing with amateur radio use and conversion of military surplus radio equipment. It will require you to go out into meatspace (aka the real world) and do research.

Back issues (and the articles within) of QST are available to ARRL members off the organization's web site.

Back issues of 73 Magazine are available here:

I would check the archives of a large city or college library for the other magazines. Someone in your ham club may also have them, or you may find them at a hamfest.

The "current" book on Milsurp Radio Gear is this one:

It is out of print, and used copies are about three times what the new price was.  That's the nature of good, hard to find information in print.  Volume 2 is still in print, and can be ordered here.

Finally, here is another page that talks about more modern milsurp equipment: Read what he has to say:
This page is to share what I and some others have learned about several items of surplus radio gear suitable for use in the Amateur Radio service. Many models of surplus commercial and military radio equipment are desirable because of the higher physical and electrical characteristics this equipment is built to. Amateur radio equipment is usually designed and constructed to appeal to a mass market of end user consumers, similar to other items of consumer electronics such as stereos and televisions. While Amateur Radio equipment is feature rich in buttons and functions, it is not robust nor does it reach the level of design excellence found in may commercial and military radios. This is due largely to the Amateur Radio market demanding bells and whistles at low prices the manufactures cannot afford to build quality equipment to.

It is no accident this page is attached to a emergency communications organization's website.  Practice has shown time and time again Amateur Radios do not hold up.  While adequate for the "typical" ham, offerings from Yaesu, Kenwood, Alinco, Icom, others just don't cut it when communications are for real.  Commercial and Military radios are intended to be used in the presence of other powerful radios, when the antenna is shot off the vehicle, when the operator is stressed, etc.  When your Yae-wood-com falls apart, these things keep plugging along - they have to, they were intended to function in roles where people die if they fail.

The radio amateur can obtain robust, very high performance equipment at reasonable prices if he looks outside of the mainstream of the Amateur Radio market. While much of this equipment may be 10 or 15 years old or older, it was state of the art in its day and will often outperform most new amateur radios. Remember, the government may have paid $40,000 for these radios, and what they paid for was the best design available, the best materials available, put together in such a way to survive a nuclear attack. Don’t look for fancy knobs, buttons, RIT, Shift, etc. These things are real radios, built for people who need to communicate with each other in a difficult environment. Most of the bells and whistles are advertisement department hype and you don’t need them anyway.


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